What does a productive work environment look like? Many managers have it wrong — 60% are still concerned that their employees aren’t as productive when working remotely. While that’s true for 11% of workers, a majority (62%) feel more productive when working from home. When we asked hybrid workers, 58% feel that they are specifically more productive in creative thinking when working remotely.

There’s no one ideal work environment for everyone. Even for the same individual, the perfect setting for one task one day might not be conducive to a different task another day.

Employees prefer different environments for different types of work. For example, quiet spaces for deep focus work or private meetings, and larger, more open spaces for creative planning sessions.  

People are most productive when they can choose what works best for them. 

“Productivity levels at work depend on what type of activity someone is working on. And the environment has a huge impact on an employee’s ability to focus and be successful.” 

What does this mean for managers? How do you create a productive work environment for your team? 

Key takeaways for managers on productivity in the workplace

  • Workers feel the office environment is best for meeting new people (59%), managing others (51%), and team meetings (51%). 
  • 39% of employees prefer innovating and brainstorming in the office, and 37% prefer to do so at home. 
  • 51% of employees feel that working from home is the most productive for thinking creatively, but only 30% said working from the office is the most effective for this type of work. 
  • Millennials and Gen Z feel more productive at home, but Boomers and Gen X feel more productive in the office. 
  • 77% of those that feel less productive at home attribute it to having more distractions. 

With these recent productivity stats from the State of Remote Work Report in mind, developing a company culture that supports different working styles and workplace preferences requires a combination of clear hybrid and flexible work policies, technology, communication, and updated employee benefits. Critically think about the day-to-day work experience of your team members. Does your work environment support their needs? Do you have the policies in place to help employees feel comfortable making remote work requests? Does the technology you have make it easy to collaborate with remote colleagues? 

As a leader or manager, you can dramatically improve the work environment and your employees’ experience by empowering your team to complete their tasks in the ways that work best for them. When everyone respects different working styles, and finds time to come together as a team, the entire organization flourishes.

How to develop a productive work environment for your team independent of location

1. Acknowledge your own workplace and proximity bias.

What are your personal beliefs when it comes to remote work and productivity? Are you part of the 60% of managers who believe that employees need to work in the office to be productive? Work with your HR team to understand any proximity bias you might have. Come up with new standards for evaluating success, and invest in hybrid and remote leadership training. 

2. Create a culture of autonomy.

When employees feel comfortable working how they want, they do better work. Let’s say a member of your marketing team typically comes into the office a few days a week, but when it’s time for the end of year report, they need to focus and work from home for a week or two. Make sure that team member knows that they can advocate for this type of flexibility.

“Help your team understand where and how they’re most productive, and encourage them to adjust their schedule, work location, or work setup to fit their preferences. Then, give them the freedom to take advantage of flexible, hybrid, or asynchronous work.”

3. Ensure all employees have access to a variety of work environments.

Does your HQ have soundproof booths, but your satellite office is a complete open-office space? Are employees able to request a stipend to visit another office to work on a project? Is it easy for employees who work from home to access a quiet space for deep focus work? 

Consider how equitable access is to different work environments, for all employees. Look at it from all angles, and don’t treat outliers, like one employee who works remotely on a team of 25, for example, as outliers. 

Work environments should include:

  • Coworking/collaborative spaces
  • Quiet areas
  • Private spaces for recording, personal calls, or serious conversations
  • Huddle rooms
  • Social spaces or event areas
  • Training rooms
  • Individual workspaces

Each one of these work environments doesn’t need to be a part of your company’s 
permanent office space. Many companies choose to rent coworking spaces, event 
spaces, individual desks, and other real estate as needed in different regions. 

Productivity data from the Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report 2022

4. Maintain open communication.

Use shared calendars, Slack statuses (“away messages”), or any other tools your team prefers to let each other know when you’re available. This helps employees feel more independent, and like they can take an hour off to go to the dentist without checking in with anyone first. If your team works on a flexible schedule, consider implementing core working hours, when you’re all online at the same time, or a day each week that you set aside for meetings. 

“Seamless hybrid communication creates a more equitable workplace — people feel more connected when working from home, and more comfortable doing so when they need to. If hybrid and flexible work means your employees can have better work-life balance and less stress while being more productive, why wouldn’t you do everything you could to make it more accessible?”   

5. Work with IT and facilities management to implement hybrid + asynchronous work infrastructure.

Wire your spaces for success in a hybrid work environment. The easier it is for employees to meet using tech like video conferencing systems and messaging apps, the more likely they are to collaborate. The most impactful technology is what your team actually uses, so work with leaders to find tools that work for them. Think about how you can help employees equip their home offices, or consider providing a coworking stipend to ensure those who choose to work remotely are set up for success. 

There’s no one size fits all solution for a productive work environment — it’s contextual.

There’s an element of unlearning that comes with adapting to hybrid and flexible work environments. For many, the physical office environment represents a place of purpose, and productivity. But for others, digital natives especially, the office environment can be daunting on a day-to-day basis, and better suited for socialization and collaboration. What we’ve learned is that when employees can choose where, when, and how they want to work, they do better work. Try adjusting your workplace environment to be more flexible, and see how the results turn out. 

Download 2022 State of Remote Work